Monday Night Football Open Thread: Saints Vs. Falcons

Hope it was a great Christmas for all of you good folks yesterday. Unfortunately, the 49ers are no longer able to pick up the first seed, what with the Green Bay Packers annihilating the Chicago Bears, as expected. But tonight's game is incredibly significant, as it could impact a lot of decisions going into Week 17. We've got the New Orleans Saints taking on the Atlanta Falcons, on its own an exciting game.

But the Saints are playing for more than that - they're gunning for that No. 2 seed, and can get it if they win out and the 49ers lose in Week 17. So first, they have to beat the Falcons. If the Saints lose tonight, then the 49ers get the No. 2 seed regardless, even if the Saints win in Week 17 and tie the 49ers. That's because the 49ers hold the tiebreak by way of having beat the Rams, even if they happen to lose to them in Week 17. The Saints would have lost 100% of the time they played the Rams, while the 49ers would have won 50% of the time.

The result of the game could have an effect on how the 49ers rest their players in Week 17, if at all. And as such, we've got a transcript after the jump with quotes on the matter from Jim Harbaugh. I love denials, personally, and I especially love the way Harbaugh says "Really not interested in sharing that philosophy today." I love it. Anyway, make the jump and use this is the game thread tonight.

Head Coach Jim Harbaugh

Press Conference - December 26, 2011

Opening Statement:

"Hello. Good to see everybody. Great win for us. Extremely proud of our football team on a lot of different levels in this ball game. Probably the biggest factor is they didn't flinch. It reminded me a lot of ways of games we played at Detroit, at Philadelphia, a few others, where similarities in the ball game, but you find a way to win. Even after the blocked punt, the demeanor on the sideline was outstanding. Offense, defense, special teams, nobody was hanging their daubers. It was just a matter of getting back out there and making the necessary plays to win. To do what it took to win, that was that attitude that I noticed on the sideline. And on another level felt like Seattle coming into the ballgame everything about their season, it had started slow. Momentum was building for them and this was their opportunity to have a good season and keep themselves in the playoff hunt. In a lot of ways it felt like a heavy weight fight that they were trying to knock us out early, ambush style. And our guys didn't flinch in that regard either. Stood toe to toe, nose to nose, and it was a hard football fight and our guys found a way to win. So, extremely pleased about that."

RB Frank Gore had just said in the locker room that that's one thing this team does, doesn't panic, and he admitted it has in years past. How do you coach that? Or is it just you have to have success for the players to buy into it? I mean, how do you get your players to not panic?

"I don't even really have an answer for you on that. The reason I don't have an answer. How do you get your players not to panic? That's your word. It's not mine, panic. I don't want to address that. I have no comment to that. These are strong men. I don't see panic in them ever. So, nothing to coach about it."

Frank was referencing how in the past on the road you guys have been right there and not gotten over the hump.

"Whether it's Frank saying panic, or you saying panic, I don't see panic."

How come this team has been able to get over the hump that it needs in these tough road environments?

"Well, I think there's a lot of reasons. The biggest thing that I'd point to is a lot of little reasons that a lot of people think are the minutia that aren't important that add up to make all the difference. And our guys continually do the little things. And they stack on each other and they build on each other. And lo and behold, you win games in high pressure situations, or find ways to do enough things right to win games and get better. And those things lead to wins. Those things, enough of those things lead to championships."

What were some of the little things we didn't see on the go-ahead drive?

"On the go-ahead drive?"

Yeah.

"Well, there's the big play by [WR] Michael Crabtree. In a lot of ways, Crab saved Christmas. Thought [LB] Larry Grant did as well. [K] David Akers - in that mix. Made it a lot merrier."

Jim, obviously a lot of concern about TE Delanie Walker, did he need surgery? What's his status?

"He's going to be out for a period of time. We don't know exactly how long. We'll have more information, but there's also a possibility that he would be back some time during the postseason. So, we'll really be able to know more in a week or 10 days. But, that being said we're going to have to make some decisions. We're planning, we're preparing and we'll address it like we always do, what's best for the football team."

Can you confirm he had a fractured jaw and surgery?

"I can't confirm anything, no."

Will you replace him? Will there be a roster spot that you'll have to fill?

"Well, those are all decisions that we have to make. And like I said, we're thinking them through. We're preparing. If there's a shot that he's going to be back in the postseason, we'd rather not make a roster move with him. It'd be our hope that if he can be back he will be back. And leave that option available. Now, we won't know that really for another seven to 10 days. How he's healing, how he's progressing. I think that's a good insight. A lot of information there."

How much will the result of tonight's Monday night game affect what personnel you use against the Rams and how much? Will it have any effect?

"It could. It could. I've always been learned to hope for the best, expect the worst. And the one thing that won't change is that we'll prepare to win this game against the Rams. It's going to take that mindset. It's going to take that mentality. And that's how we'll approach it regardless of what happens. So, that's all we really need to know right now. It won't change our approach in that regard."

Has it felt as if you've been in playoff mode these last two weeks, as if the playoffs have already begun for this team?

"Yes."

Do you think that's a good thing? Do you like how your team has reacted and do you like how that sort of sets you up for the playoffs?

"I think it's a good thing, yes. And I've said that. Said as much as that. That they've been previews to what the playoffs would be like. That pressure to perform. Both teams with a lot at stake. That's what the playoffs would be like. So, I do think in that regard it is."

There are two different schools of thought. Some coaches in your situation with possibly a first-round bye, they like to play out that last game because they don't want their starters to have two consecutive weeks off and get rusty. What are your thoughts on that?

"Really not interested in sharing that philosophy today."

With WR Kyle Williams injury, is it serious?

"Well, I think all of them are. I'm not even going to debate the semantics. He got banged up in the game, yes, for everybody to see. And Kyle's a tough kid. You wait and see. It's all in the hands of the doctors and Kyle."

You don't even subtlety ever criticize a player in the media, which is not-

"I'll leave that to you guys."

Sure. We can do it. But, I mean is that philosophy you have, obviously not all coaches necessarily do that or subscribe to that, is that shaped by your experience as a player, or is that something your dad passed on, or where does that come from?

"Well, basically it's a belief. You coach, you teach. You tell players what to do, how to do and then you let them do. And then you tell them what they did right, what they did wrong and then you let them do again. So, I don't see the benefit of telling the media, and have them read about it, when they're already hearing about it from us."

Did you ever have a different experience as a player?

"That's my philosophy on it. No stories to support it, or bullet points."

WR Joshua Morgan just said he feels that he's ahead of schedule and encouraged. He was actually pretty spirited in there saying that he's helping call some plays and contributing on the good plays and the bad plays, but that he called that play to Crabtree. Nice to see him around a little bit and back on the sidelines and contributing?

"Yeah, he's just a great youngster. Everybody respects him. Everybody enjoys his company. And the more he's in the building and the meetings and on the sideline the better it is for us."

Jim, I'm going to ask you about some of the guys who may or may not be available for you. At this stage in the season, is it unrealistic to think that somebody can come in from outside of the building and suit up and make a contribution?

"I don't think that that's unrealistic, no. All options will be looked at. And like I said, decisions will be made with one thing in mind, what's best for the team, what helps the team win. And what's best for the team."

Jim, when Kyle Williams got hit, both teams piled on top of him and you got right out there and ordered people off. What went through your mind when you saw the pile and have you ever had to do anything like that as a coach?

"What went through my mind was get people off so the doctors could get in. Let the professionals tend to Kyle."

Have you ever had to do step in like that before?

"Yes, Saturday."

What was your view of that play? Do you view it as a clean play?

"No, Kyle had given himself up. Should have been tagged off on him."

Coach, how much of your experience as a player in the playoffs help you as you prepare this team for their playoff run?

"I don't know. I don't know how much."

Not much?

"I don't know how much."

But do you feel like anything that you've picked off is some kind of advice that you can tell them as they prepare for it?

"I'd like to think so. Kind of what we do. We're in the advice-giving business. Hopefully it's sound advice."

Jim, did you pay attention to ... there was some it must have been the day before the game, Former 49ers GM Scot McCloughan was quoted as saying what Seattle was going to do to the 49ers, did that hit your radar at all?

"Yes."

And was that used as any sort of motivation for the game?

"No, it was not. I didn't mention it to any player. And I knew some of the players had known about it because they mentioned some things to some of the other coaches. But no, it wasn't used in front of the team, or put up on the bulletin board or anything like that. It didn't feel like that person would have any effect on the game whatsoever. So, it seemed very irrelevant."

Did it ruffle your feathers at all?

"No, no. It was irrelevant to me. He wasn't participating."

From your view on the sidelines and from the chatter of the players, was that the most physical game of the season?

"You asked me that the other night, or somebody did, and I'm standing on the sideline. That'd be a better question for the players."

P Andy Lee, I think that was his third blocked punt in his career. What went wrong on that? What can you do to prevent it from happening again?

"Well, continue to coach it. It was read by a couple of our guys as a hold up, as a punt return. And you have to stop the feet of the rusher whether it's hold up or rush. It was a mistake on our part."

Tomorrow Pro Bowl is announced. Will you expect a pretty big haul?

"I would, yes. I think it's legitimate to say there's probably going to be, there should be, deserving to be nine, or 10, maybe 11 guys on our team would be the number I estimate, given there's a lot of good players out there in the National Football League. A lot of people voting who have agendas. Who knows when it comes to voting on things. I think it's good to recognize individual performance within a team group. I think we have that many guys on our team that are deserving of that recognition and keep our fingers crossed for our guys that it goes that way."

And then tonight the game that has some ramifications, how in tune are you going to be during the course of that, the ramifications to you guys?

"Oh, in tune, in tune. Like I said, hoping for the best, expecting the worst. And regardless, preparing to beat the Rams. That's the most important game on our schedule because it's the next one. And then the division opponent on the road. And that's what we've got to do. We've got to get prepared for it and handle the pressure of it, and the circumstances around it whatever they might be."

Jim, you talked about the post-punt sideline demeanor, how you liked it. What was it about the sideline demeanor? I mean, I guess how did that express itself?

"Body language, look in their eye. That kind of steely-eyed look. Nobody hanging their heads. No finger pointing whatsoever. And that was a big shift. You go from, ‘boy it looks like we're controlling the football game to now we're down,' in very short fashion. And we gotta rise to that challenge and that's what I sensed from our team to a man, that that was their mindset."

What was the best thing you got for Christmas?

"Best thing I got for Christmas? I've got to try and remember now because I've got to get the birthday and the Christmas presents there. It was that four of my children were there. So, the look in their eye. My wife had assembled this beautiful tree and there were lots of presents underneath it. Just watching them open the presents. And then actually played with them, with the presents. Just that look in the eye. Those three daughters and one son, the joy that they had on Christmas morning was really good. That was my present."

Were you able to take the whole day off, or most of it?

"Yeah, most of it. And my wife was pleased with me. We went for a nice walk, walked ‘The Dish' over there on the Stanford campus with the girls and my wife. Put together some play sets. A princess play set. Took some time. My wife was happy. Got on the floor, played some puzzles with my daughter and changed a few diapers. I think what really won it for me, the day, was my dad and I were watching the football game and I could hear my wife kind of starting to come down the stairs and we flipped it over to Peppa Pig and got down on the floor and started playing with the puzzle. So, that won some points. That was a good move, good strategic move. She was very pleased with me."

Where does your dad live these days?

"Milwaukee, Wisconsin."

Is he ever there?

"You know what, he's rarely there. Either that or there's two or three of him. He's got a couple doubles because Kentucky basketball, Kentucky and Indiana are playing. Indiana gets the big win, I see my dad right behind the bench, and man, there must be two or three of this guy. He's in Baltimore. He's in San Francisco. He's in a lot of places."

Was he in Seattle?

"He was not in Seattle. No, he and my mom were with my kids. My wife went with me to Seattle. But, they're everywhere. They really are. So, they're rarely in Milwaukee. They said they had to get home and pay some bills."

They were at the Monday Night Game?

"They were at the Monday Night Game. Sure were, yeah."

So, did you flip back to the Packer game once you got done there?

"No, never did get back to see how it finished up. So, went from that to put my daughter to bed. But, it was a good strategic move."

So, you did not come in here yesterday, or did you come in here at all yesterday?

"No, I did some things out of the office yesterday. Didn't come into the actual office."

Packers ended up winning the game.

"Yes, yes I am aware of that. I am aware of that. But, then they had some other things. I read some of the comments about the great play that Crab made. Michael made a terrific play in the ball game. It was a great concentration on the ball. Great play by Michael and clean play all the way. Any comment that it was not is baloney. Yeah, that there was anything illegal about that play, full of baloney, bunch of baloney. That was a great play by Michael and a great throw by Alex Smith."

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